Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cassin’s Auklets Wreck Hits Bayocean

This winter tens of thousands of dead Cassin's Auklets have appeared on beaches all along the Pacific Coast, 10 to 100 times normal rates, according to the University of Washington report "Cassin's Auklet North Pacific Winter Wreck 2014-2015". Volunteers with COASST and CoastWatch have been collecting and counting specimens, many of which were autopsied to determine cause of death. Audubon Magazine's "Lost at Sea: Starving Birds in a Warming World" agrees with UW and others that the dead birds are juveniles who starved for reasons associated with global warming.


Photo by D. Derickson of COASST





















Unfortunately, Bayocean participated in this "wreck". In a CoastWatch report on December 26, 2014, Cape Meares resident Olli Olikainen counted 126 dead auklets along Mile 289, which is at the northern end of the ocean side of the spit, and 121 dead auklets along Mile 286.  The Cape Meares Community Association web site lists others who helped out: Keith and Anita Johanson, BJ Byron, Kevin and Kathy Burke, Carolyn Olikainen, Wendy Kunkel, Dave Audet, John Harland, Ciel Downing, Rod Pelson, and Pete Steen. Thanks to all of you for doing this unpleasant but important work.

The good new is that Olli saw no dead birds on March 30, 2015 , just a few remaining bones and feathers. Hopefully all  seen on Bayocean in the future will be flying by like little tennis balls against the backdrop of a coastal sunset.


Photo by Jamie Chavez via Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Julio Mulero via Flickr Creative Commons

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bayocean Shoreline Changes Over Time

In Oregon Coastal Atlas I mentioned a web viewer set up by Tanya Haddad to view changes in Bayocean's shorelines from 1939 to 1964, using aerial photographs from the Army Corps of Engineers. The four diagrams below show the changes in a different way. Figures 19 and 20 are the last two pages of the Final Impact Statement for the Extension of Tillamook South Jetty, again provided by the Corps.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Trail Signs

If you've hiked the signed trails on Bayocean you'll have noticed that the ones on the bay side are just off Dike Road, while the ones on the ocean side are not visible from the beach. Rather, they are posted where trees begin. I wondered if that was because they were installed before the south jetty was built and thus could be used to see how much sand accretion could be attributed to them. Since the Tillamook County Parks Department is in charge of trail maintenance, I called Director Del Schleichert to find out.

Del informed me that the signs were placed there in the early 2000s, just before he was hired. He said they were made of a weather-resistant, composite material by workers employed at a state correctional institution, with the date stamped on the back. I confirmed this during a hike April 8, 2015. They were all stamped either June 2002 or  November 2001.

Signs are not placed on the fore dunes because the sand is  constantly shifting. Thus, any signs installed, or trails built, would require constant maintenance. Tillamook County just doesn't have the budget for that. Bayocean hiking enthusiasts have resolved the problem on their own by placing and maintaining tripods and posts with colored strings to let folks know where they need to leave the beach. Once up on the fore dune you can see the trails sign or footprints leading to them.  On behalf of those of us who benefit from those tripods I'd like to thank those who set them up.

As to accretion of sand attributable to the south jetty, that can be seen in aerial photographs and sketches drawn by the US Corps of Engineers. Time lapse photo overlays at Google Earth show very little change since 1994.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Zoning Change For Bayocean Moves Forward

Map by John Harland
On April 9, the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to direct the Tillamook County Planning  Department to initiate steps to change the zoning of Bayocean Spit from Recreation Management (RM) to Recreation Normal (RN). If finalized, this change, which was requested by the Cape Meares Community Association (CMCA), would preclude commercial development like the recent  Bay Ocean LLC proposal to build an eco-park, which was rejected by Tillamook County Planning Commission.

John Harland was the primary spokesperson for the CMCA. He argued that any commercial development on Bayocean would be inappropriate for reasons detailed at the CMCA web site . Vic Affolter, Deborah Neal, Chris Spence, and Charles J. Ansorge also spoke in favor of the zone change. See the  notes taken by Ansorge, CMCA President.

According to multiple sources, including a story in the Tillamook County Pioneer, approximately 50 people attended the special workshop, with most of them in favor of the change. An article in the Tillamook Headlight Herald covered the one exception at great length. Chris Stellflug said that his family's desire to build a cabin on the shoreline of Cape Meares Lake had been stymied by zone changes since buying the property in the 1960s. They also may want to build a commercial fish farm in Cape Meares Lake, most of which covers land owned by them. As long as the proposed zone change has no effect on them, Stellflug said they would  not object to it. Commissioners Tim Josi and Mark Labart both made statements supporting that outcome.

This decision to proceed by the Board of County Commissioners is just the first step. After thePlanning Department drafts a proposal, their Planning Commission will hold public hearings and make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners. Josi expected that process to take about four months.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Kincheloe Point


Kincheloe Point, the northeast section of Bayocean Peninsula, was named after a man who drowned while taking soundings of the bar at the mouth of Tillamook Bay for the U.S. Coast Survey on May 20, 1867. 

Sketches of the Pacific Coast had been drawn by the earliest of mariners, but they were so imprecise as to make port entries hazardous. Once California, Oregon, and Washington had been brought into the United States, the Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey sent "assistants" to draw accurate charts and make shipping safer along the West Coast. When the first assistants arrived in San Francisco in 1849, they surveyed the most critical ports - like San Francisco, Astoria, and Seattle - first.  As years went by they hired "sub-assistants" to fill in the gaps.

In an autobiography, Assistant Superintendent James Lawson , Kincheloe's supervisor, said that he and his wife arrived in Tillamook in June of 1866. He hired locals Charles West, Samuel Lanagan, Henry Ballou, Beveriah Steelcup, and Elias Steelcup to assist him and started establishing precise geographic coordinates. Later, they took soundings to map out Tillamook Bay's hydrography.

In the Obituary and Section XI of his 1867 report, Superintendent Benjamin Peirce said that after eleven months Kincheloe's work was mostly complete; he was just waiting for calm seas to get a couple final soundings to create a "concluding line across the bar." Opportunity came May 20, when "the channel was perfectly smooth...not a ruffle on its surface" according to a story in Oregon City's Weekly Enterprise . Kincheloe and his five men had finished, and were heading back when a breaker swamped the boat. Before they could recover (due to the anchor falling out) another one capsized it, and others washed them overboard. The only man to hang on and survive was James Steel.  

On May 8, 1902 T.B. Handley was prompted by the drowning of the Steelcup brothers' nephew Fred to write about the Kincheloe event in the Tillamook Herald. Steel was saved by a boy named Duvall Clark (Pierce called him George Clark, Jr.). His family was living at what's now Barview, so he could see what was happening. He headed out in a small canoe "despite the entreaties and commands of his frightened mother." In the meantime, Daniel Bayley (at whose home the Kincheloe's were staying; his land claim was to become Garibaldi) hired four Indians from a nearby village, who relieved Duvall from pulling Steele behind him (to avoid swamping the little canoe) against a heavy outgoing current.

Superintendent Peirce said that, "On July 1st the bodies of Sub-Assistant Kincheloe and Elias N. Steelcup, one of the crew, were found at a point on the coast about fourteen miles distant from Tillamook Bar." Bodies of the others were never recovered. The Herald reported that Ballou was survived by a wife and child, implying the rest were bachelors.

At Neah Bay, James Lawson heard the news from a passing ship and went to Olympia where he received orders (as expected) via telegraph to proceed to Tillamook. When he arrived he found Mrs. (Jennie) Kincheloe " in great distress." No wonder: she'd watched the entire event from shore, wrote a final report for her husband, and then (according to Handley) "went to bed and was prematurely [sic]delivered of a stilborn [sic] child."
While waiting for Captain Flavel to send a schooner to retrieve them, Mrs. (Cecilia) Bayley nursed Mrs. Kincheloe to the point she could travel to Astoria, where Mrs. Flavel took over. Lawson then accompanied her on a passenger steamer to San Francisco, from where she sailed back home in Maine.

The first Coast Survey chart of Tillamook Bay was published in 1869  along with the superintendent's 1867 report.  It was credited to Kincheloe but left the spit unnamed. When Superintendent F.M. Thorne updated the chart in 1887, he named the spit Kincheloe Point. This honor had been preceded by a Coast Survey ship being christened the Kincheloe in 1876. As discussed in Stand Under Bayocean Hotel, a survey control station was named after Kincheloe in 1926. All the men who drowned that day are listed at the Coast Survey's In the Line of Duty web page.

The Corps of Engineers and the Coast Survey both referred to the entire spit as Kincheloe Point until long after Bayocean was built. It wasn't until Bayocean was washed to sea that the name Kincheloe Point was relegated to just the northeast corner of the spit. Before the levies were built, the narrow spot between Kincheloe Point and Green Hill was the mouth of Tillamook Bay. Reports of the drowning said the bar was about 1 1/4 miles out from there, which would be near the end of the current jetties.

The Tillamook Bar continues to be "one of the most treacherous bars on the Oregon coast" according to the U. S. Coast Guard Tillamook Bay web site.  A 2010 story in the Oregonian  titled  "Tillamook Bay bar grows more deadly, claiming 17 lives in seven years" explains why. The drowning of Sub-Assistant Kincheloe and his crew was an unfortunate harbinger of things to come.